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Summary —The One Theme of Preaching Christ Crucified. Not Eloquence or Human Wisdom, but the Power of the Spirit Needed. A Divine Wisdom in the Cross of Christ. This is a Mystery Revealed to the Converted; Unseen by the Unregenerate. The Things of the Kingdom Not Understood by the Worldly. These are Revealed to Those who Have the Spirit of God.
1–5. Paul has shown, in the preceding chapter, that God chose the things and persons which the world calls foolish, and weak, and base, and of no account, in order to confute the world's wisdom and to overthrow its power. He now shows that this harmonizes with the means used at Corinth in the founding of the church. Not with excellency of speech or of wisdom. Not with the eloquent arts of a Grecian orator, or the speculations of a Greek philosopher; things highly esteemed at Corinth and among all the Greeks. The testimony of God. The Revision has, “Mystery of God,” which has the support of the best MSS., and harmonizes better with the context. The gospel is often called “a mystery” (Eph. 3:9, and 1 Tim. 3:16). 2. Save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. All his preaching centered upon this great theme, “To the Greeks foolishness, and to the Jews a stumbling-block” (1:23). 3. I was with you in weakness, etc. In this great center of Greek culture, he felt a human timidity at first in presenting the simple gospel in the face of the splendors of the Greek philosophy. 4. Not with enticing words of man's wisdom. He did not resort to the arts and enticements of Greek oratory or philosophy. But in demonstration of the Spirit and of power. Filled by the Holy Spirit, he spoke in its power, and thus moved upon the hearts of his hearers. His words were also supported by the power of the Spirit shown in miracles (Romans 15:19; 2 Cor. 12:12). 5. That your faith should not stand. Their faith was not produced by the triumphs of oratory or philosophy, but by the gospel preached in the power of the Spirit. Hence it was wrought through the means supplied of God.
6–9. Howbeit we speak wisdom. “We” refers to Paul and his fellow-preachers. Though the gospel abjured carnal wisdom, yet it has a wisdom of its own, a divine wisdom, which is imparted to and recognized by those who have become full-grown Christians. “The perfect” are the full-grown in Christ, instead of babes. Babes must be fed on milk, but the grown can endure strong meat. For such there is a depth of wisdom revealed in the gospel, but not the wisdom of this world. Princes of this world. Leading men of the Jews, Greeks and Romans. They had not learned this divine wisdom. 7. We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery. The Greeks had their mysteries, like the Eleusinian, in which secrets were imparted to the initiated. A mystery is a secret as yet not made known. The wisdom of God in the gospel was a mystery hidden until Christ came, and since then fully comprehended only by “the initiated,” the full-grown Christians. The apostolic sense of “mystery” is that which was hidden, but is now disclosed to those who accept the gospel. Those who will not receive the gospel cannot comprehend this wisdom. See Rom. 16:25, 26; Eph. 3:6; 1 Tim. 3:16. Even the hidden wisdom. Long hidden, though existing in God's plans made before the “age” (see margin of Revision). The Jewish age or dispensation may be meant, or it may mean the ages of man's existence. The Greek word is “ages.” This hidden wisdom proposed all through the dispensations the glory of God's chosen ones. 8. Which none of the princes … knew. Utterly ignorant of the divine wisdom to be revealed in Christ, they, the high priests, with Pilate and Herod, crucified the Son. 9. As it is written (Isa. 54:4). There was no human conception, as shown by the prophet, of the glory to be revealed in the mystery of the gospel. And indeed that glory is still beyond the power of mere human conception.
10–13. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit. These wonders of the love of God, not seen by eye, nor heard by ear, nor revealed to the senses, were revealed by the Spirit to the apostles (to us), and made known through them to full-grown Christians (“the perfect,” verse 6). The Spirit searcheth, etc. The Holy Spirit, imparted so freely to the apostles to lead them into all truth (John 16:13), is the Spirit of God. Hence this Spirit imparts a knowledge of the deep things of God. The secrets of the divine wisdom are thus made known. 11. For what man knoweth, etc. A man's spirit knows all his secrets, though these are unknown to another man. So God's Spirit knows the Divine secrets, and imparts these wherever he dwells in full measure as the Spirit of knowledge. 12. Now we have received, etc. We apostles. The Spirit received by all the apostles was not the spirit of the world, but the Holy Spirit which Christ promised them as a guide into all truth. Hence they were enabled to know what God imparted freely to them. 13. Which things we also speak. The grand truths, “the hidden wisdom,” “the mystery of God,” revealed to them through the Spirit, they spoke to others. These things they spoke, not in the words of man's wisdom, not in the garb of philosophy, but in the words given by the Holy Spirit. Comparing spiritual things with spiritual. This difficult clause has received many explanations. Canon Cook explains it: “Matching spiritual things with spiritual words.” Conybeare and Howson say: “Explaining spiritual things to spiritual men.” This last view, which Canon Cook says does no violence to the Greek, harmonizes best with verses 6 and 14. I think that verse 14, the next verse, shows that this is the true meaning.
14–16. But the natural man. The natural man is the unregenerate, one who has the spirit of the world, one not born anew of water and of the Spirit. Man is a triune being—body, soul and spirit. The natural man is under the dominion of the soul, the animal life. The spirit must be stirred from its dormant condition, and born again, before one can comprehend the things of the Spirit. These are foolishness to one under the dominion of the animal life, such as the Jewish scribes and Greek “disputers,” for they can be discerned only by the spirit of man. It is only when a spiritual hunger is felt, when one is born again, and when man becomes a spiritual instead of an animal being, that he can understand “the deep things of the Spirit.” But blessed be God, the A B C's of the gospel, which the ignorant and unlearned men can understand, are sufficient to convert and prepare one for a higher knowledge. 15. He that is spiritual. He who lives the spiritual life. Judgeth all things. “Examineth,” in the margin of the Revision. The spiritual man, helped by the indwelling Spirit, is prepared to study the deeper truths of the Spirit. Judged of no man. None who are not spiritual are able to sit in judgment upon his higher life. He is on a higher level, and the animal man, from his lower level, cannot well estimate him. 16. For who hath known the mind of the Lord? etc. No man, not even the most spiritual, knows the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him. If there was such a one, he, and he only, might instruct those who have the mind of Christ.
Two things are learned from this chapter: (1) There is a divine wisdom or philosophy. (2) This divine wisdom, or mystery, is an absurdity or perplexity to the world, but the wisdom of God to the saints.
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